I was told that the Needles District was more scenic than Island in the Sky and less visited due to the fact that you have to drive 25 miles off the main road to get to it. So on my recent vacation in Utah, I just had to see it for myself. It is a long drive off from UTAH 191 but the drive in is terrific and while we wanted to make several stops on the way in, we wanted to get to Squaw Flat Campground ASAP to find a spot since there are no advance reservations. It is strictly FCFS (first come, first served) and upon arriving we found out that there were 11 out of 16 sites open. We got a great campsite..look in campground B, sites #19,20 &r 21 which are set back on a little cul-de-sac... very quiet and removed from all the RV sites. We took #20 and camped next to Joe from SLC. Joe hikes here frequently and told us about this hike which was on my agenda anyway. So it seems I made a good choice based on my research.
This was one awesome hike.
You take Elephant Hill Road, which the NPS rates as a rough but graded road to Elephant Hill Trailhead for a distance of 2 miles. These people have never been on the Tonto National Forest roads since I tooled along at 30 MPH kickin' up a cloud of dust. This road was smooth! You get to Elephant Hill TH and there is plenty of parking at the Trailhead~~~Elephant Hill Road continues on from here but is strictly a 4WD road.
From the well marked TH, you take a series of rock steps up to the mesa... nothing strenuous and then walk across some slick rock along a well cairned "trail". Slickrock trails are always a little tricky but this one is well cairned. It was pretty much up and down for a mile or so across the slickrock until you come to a BIG wash and decisions... Druid Arch? Elephant Canyon? We decided to ford on to Elephant Canyon and not far from the wash we started the descent into Elephant canyon and up the other side. This was SWEET! Once you trek on another 2 miles you come to a trail junction sign for Devil's Kitchen but we continued straight on into Chesler Park. The needles really showed their beauty here and we hiked up to a summit where we had some much needed shade and a terrific breeze. The trail after peaking on saddle was all sand (and I HATE hiking in sand) but we went a little ways up here before we said "FORGET hiking in all this sand", turned around and came back the way we hiked in.
Elephant Canyon is gorgeous. This entire hike was gorgeous. There are too many trail options to be considered in this post for a day hike but we took the trails that were recommended to us by Joe from Salt Lake City, who has been here many times before. THANKS JOE! You rock!!
I was immensely impressed with Canyonlands over all the other places I visited this year in Utah. I definitely want to come back to this beautiful area. - Oct 26 2008 Trishness